WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?
Julian Assange could be in legal hot water over the release of e-mails belonging to a private company, an expert says.
February 27th, 2012
04:09 PM ET

WikiLeaks + Anonymous = A powerful partnership?

Though it's nothing new for WikiLeaks to publish information belonging to a private company, Monday's release of Stratfor e-mails might be an indication that for the first time, Anonymous and WikiLeaks have worked together. And that could have legal consequences for WikiLeaks' editor Julian Assange, experts say.

In December, Anonymous claimed it had hacked Stratfor, the Austin, Texas-based private company that produces intelligence reports for clients. On Monday, WikiLeaks began releasing 5 million e-mails it said belonged to Stratfor that reveal, WikiLeaks says, a litany of injustices by the company. WikiLeaks is calling the leak The Global Intelligence Files.

WikiLeaks has not said where it got the e-mails. Anonymous, an amorphous group of hackers worldwide,  is claiming on Twitter and on other social media that they gave it to the site. Numerous media outlets such as the Washington Post and Wired are reporting the partnership.

"Their [WikiLeaks and Anonymous] working together made sense. Anonymous did the hack, had the stuff and in the end decided that someone else would be better-suited to comb through this and release it," said Gregg Housh, who acts as a spokesperson for Anonymous. "Anonymous just didn't have the ability to go through all the e-mails themselves. This was a happy partnership. WikiLeaks did such an awesome job categorizing the [State Department] cables."

WikiLeaks became megawatt famous in 2010 with the Iraq and Afghanistan war leaks, and then followed up by leaking nearly a quarter million State Department cables. Meanwhile, Anonymous was making its first international headlines by disabling the Web sites of MasterCard, PayPal and Visa when the corporations stopped doing business with WikiLeaks. With intense attention on WikiLeaks and Assange's subsequent legal woes, it seemed that Anonymous might take over if WikiLeaks couldn't survive. Assange last year said that he had nothing to do with the site disabling of the companies.

Housh is a web developer in Boston and says that he observes Anonymous' IRC chat portal and communicates with anons but he doesn't participate in any hacks. Through Housh, CNN has requested phone interviews with anons, people who associate themselves with Anonymous. On Monday those requests were rebuffed -  although across the Web, anons claimed credit for the Stratfor hack. The hackers behind the Stratfor hack may be part of an Anonymous sect called "Anti-Sec," which Wired reports is known for hacking into servers.

Stratfor confirmed Monday that company e-mails had been stolen, but said in a statement that some of the messages may have been altered.

Because the Global Intelligence Files are allegedly stolen from a private company, WikiLeaks could likely be held liable for that theft, said Hemu Nigam who has worked for two decades in computer security.

"There's a huge difference between publishing information and publishing information you know to be stolen," said Nigam, who has collaborated with the U.S. Secret Service, Interpol and the FBI to implement a hacker identification program for Microsoft. He now runs SSP Blue, an advisory firm that tells major corporations how to protect against hackers and insiders looking to leak. "There are a host of criminal statues that I have no doubt Stratfor's attorneys are going over thinking about how best to sue WikiLeaks. Information that is privately owned is not the same as information that is public, that essentially belongs to the public."

Hemu says that it appears to him that the 5 million e-mails were taken by a hacker who penetrated an unprotected server and copied the entire server. "Any company that's keeping valuable or confidential information has to take a multilayered approach to Internet security," Nigam said. "There are so many ways to access a system, and a company has to stay several steps ahead of all of them."

The Stratfor leak isn't the first time that WikiLeaks has published information from a private company, said Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends free speech and online privacy. In 2008, Swiss bank Julius Baer filed suit in federal district court in California against WikiLeaks for hosting 14 allegedly leaked documents regarding personal banking transactions of bank customers. According to Jeschke, Baer ultimately moved to dismiss the case.

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Filed under: Anonymous • Julian Assange • WikiLeaks
soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Cody

    It's a shame wikileaks has no money to pay Stratfor after they get sued. And shutting down wikileaks really accomplishes nothing – he can just open it up again after going bankrupt.

    February 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cullen Cook

    If WikiLeaks gets sued and loses, then WikiLeaks gets shut down. The prosecution will not get any money for WikiLeaks, they don't have any money to give. Then Anonymous will release the information in raw form anyway, it will just be harder to understand and piece together.

    February 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • TrueAmerican

      So not true at all. The Pirate Bay has been sued, successfully, more than once, and it remains to this day.

      February 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. svann

    test – posts not showing

    February 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • svann

      Geez why are all my posts getting autoblocked? Im not saying anything inflammatory or with bad words.

      February 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Infoman

      Who cares, many posts dont get on, im sure what you had to say isnt earthshattering, let it go.

      February 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Robert Dobbson

    People who talk about Anonymous as though there was an organization, or even a cabal of leaders, don't understand it at all. Reporters want to "interview Anons" for example. There are potentially 10s of thousands of "Anons", or even more. Sit down & talk with your children – you'll probably be "talking with Anons".

    February 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. J3sus Sandals

    "There are a host of criminal statues that I have no doubt Stratfor's attorneys are going over thinking about how best to sue WikiLeaks."

    I hope the attorneys are going over more than criminal statues. I'm guessing these would include Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mussolini and even George Bush (Jr AND Snr) . Perhaps their time would be better spent scouring over statutes.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. New guy

    Sadly, none of this does anything to change the world order. It will just change the way agencies conduct business. More face to face and courier delivered messages, more coded info if wireless messages need to be sent. We'll be more in the dark than ever, and agencies will be less accountable than ever.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. frank

    RICO statutes should be used to put these thieves in jail.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry G

      They have shown us just how rotten our government has become and how secret it is. I hope Assange keeps on keepin' on!

      February 27, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • El Diablo

      They are a secret group and nobody knows who or how the information was obtained. Makes it kind of hard.

      February 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fiskenmann


    February 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mickey Leaks

    Because he has an untreated venereal disease.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Talkic

    With great power comes great responsibility.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mahhn

    Anonymous can't be "teamed up with" becouse it is not a group. It is any person that does something and doesn't let their name be known. If you ever donated money and didn't take credit for it then you did an Anonymous contribution.

    I can't belive the media is still pushing such misinformation. LE is not directed at the crimes and criminals exposed but at the people that expose the criminals. Anonymous are the whistle blowers in fear for their lives to expose crimes commited, and the level of corruption is self evedent as the criminals being exposed are ignored and the whistle blowers persued.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pete/Ark

    WOW ! Imagine the IPO when this corporation hits the stockmarket.

    February 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. TheTraveler

    Anarchists Unite!

    February 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♔Mmmmm♕

      i disagree. anarchists and arsonists have identical goals...

      February 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Patrick a.

    I can,t believe that there are people here defending the real criminals at Stratfor.
    If you people had any ideas what firms like Stratfor did around the world you maybe then you would know as to why a certain people hate us so much.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. oops

    Good work boys lets take down the that stupid obama website next its an eyesore

    February 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
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